Teaching kids about homelessness and 'The Contributor'

Aug 01 2017
Posted by: Staff
Teaching kids about homelessness and 'The Contributor'

By: Amelia Ferrell Knisely

Kids are some of The Contributor’s most faithful customers, but teaching children about homelessness and what we do at The Contributor can be daunting. Use our guide to help your kids and students learn about homelessness in Nashville and our street paper. 

What does it mean to be homeless?
When someone is experiencing homelessness, it might mean they live in a shelter, a hotel, a tent or outside on the streets. They don’t have a place to store their belongings and have to carry everything with them in bags, a backpack or a suitcase. Many people experiencing homelessness do not have money for food or new clothes. 

Why are people homeless?
People can become homeless for many different reasons, and many times it means a person does not have enough money to pay for a home. These people might work hard every day at jobs but still do not earn enough to provide for themselves and their families. Some people experiencing homelessness have a disability so they can’t take care of themselves and earn money.

What is The Contributor?
The Contributor is a newspaper sold by homeless and formerly homeless vendors in Nashville and surrounding communities. Men and women who sell The Contributor are called vendors, and they wear a bright yellow badge with their name on it. The newspaper includes news about Nashville and writing by vendors. Vendors buy the paper from The Contributor for 75 cents, then sell it for $2. They keep all the profits, plus tips. Many Contributor vendors have been able to move into homes because of the money they earned selling the paper.

What can I do to help?
There are so many ways that you can help people experiencing homelessness. Think about all of the things that you need during the day: breakfast, lunch and dinner, clothes to wear, school supplies. You can donate all of those things to homeless people, because they need those things too. One idea: go to a local homeless shelter with your family or friends and cook a meal for the people there. 

You can help Contributor vendors by buying the paper for $2, or encouraging a parent to buy and take the newspaper. With the help of an adult, you can get to know our vendors by telling them about yourself and what you like to do, then asking them about their lives. 

The most important way to help people experiencing homelessness is to treat them just like you would treat your friends or family. Treat homeless people just like you would want to be treated. 


This guide was written using information from the National Alliance to End Homelessness. More information can be found at

Amelia Ferrell Knisely can be reached at


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